Bill Gates - The Little Nerd that Could

As a self-admitted, die hard, Apple fan-boy, it feels a bit strange for me to recommend a talk by the chairman of one of Apple's biggest rivals. But I respect improvement, and from what I've seen of Bill Gates, he is my top pick for Most Improved in the area of presentation skills. Take a quick look at this image from when he was still running Microsoft:

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="400" caption="Bill Gates' presentations used to suffer from poorly designed slides"]Bill Gates presenting at Microsoft with cluttered slides[/caption]

Not only is that slide horrendous, cluttered, and pretty much incomprehensible, but his delivery was in no way engaging, entertaining, or inspiring. Now take a look at these images from his recent talk at TED 2011 in Monterey, CA.

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="491" caption="Bill Gates speaking at TED University 2011"]Bill Gates speaks in front of a well designed slide at TED 2011[/caption]

2010 US Spending - Slide from Bill Gates at TED 2011 Impact on Education in the Future - Slide from Bill Gates at TED 2011

The slides used in this presentation are very well designed, with an attractive and subtle background, one main idea per slide, and no bullet points. Even though the subject of the presentation is about the boring and technical topic of state budgets, the design didn't suffer the usual fate of dry, stiff presentation.

Not only does he now have great slides, but his delivery was much improved. He appears comfortable on stage, doesn't fidget or move around unnecessarily, speaks clearly at a comfortable pace, and even uses humor appropriately. Bill Gates has now given 3 talks at TED that I know of, and all of them have been at this caliber. It appears as thought Bill has taken the time to prepare the content of his talks, put forth the effort to design them well (or, more likely, the money to hire someone to design them), and accepted help from a speaking coach.

Slide design and presentation skills aside, this talk is also very relevant to teachers based on it's content – state budgets and how they affect education. The message is timely and important – we need to pay more attention to state budget and expenditures, because the effect on education is great.

Please take 10 minutes to watch this talk and think about what you can learn from a reformed presenter.

You can watch or download this talk on

When you have the time, be sure to see the other two TED Talks he has given.

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